“Unfortunately…apologetics has come to be defined in such a way that to most people it means little more than engaging in abstract philosophical arguments, divorced from the reality of life.” Michael Ramsden writes in his article for the C.S. Lewis Institute’s Knowing & Doing. For many Christians, this seems to be the case. Too often, many believe that they lack the practical skills to translate philosophical or scientific evidence for the truth of Christianity into everyday conversations. However, as Michael Ramsden explains, with a lot of prayer and a little confidence, even a beginner can engage in conversational apologetics.
Start With the Person at Your Coffee Shop
Sharing one’s faith and articulating the reasons for one’s faith in Christ can be a bit overwhelming. We read people like C.S. Lewis, J. Warner Wallace, Ravi Zacharias, or Dr. John Lennox and can only dream of articulating our faith in such a compelling way. As such, we tend to be overwhelmed by the thought that we don’t have the credentials needed to engage the post-Christian culture we’re surrounded by.
I tend to get so caught up in the “larger picture” that I sometimes get overwhelmed and forget that sharing my faith, and the reasons for it, comes one person at a time. We don’t have to try to tackle the whole world, we can just start with the person sitting across from us at our local coffee shop.
Michael Ramsden, in his piece for the C.S. Lewis Institute, does a great job of reminding each of us of this fact.
First, we need to settle in our hearts that Christ is the Lord of our lives. “The starting point for giving an apologetic, therefore, is not possessing a top-notch education or holding a proliferation of theological qualifications. It is accepting Christ’s Lordship in all areas of our lives including our thinking.” He goes on to say that, “If we are still caught in two minds, if we are not convinced of the veracity of the Gospel, we will never be able to develop an effective apologetic…”
Second, and what I found to be quite important in our current age, is that we must be aware of how we conduct ourselves. As Ramsden states, “Our attitude, our actions, and how we treat other people is vitally important. Even when faced with persecution, evil is not to be repaid with evil.” It is vitally important that we treat others with gentleness and respect, especially if they disagree with us, slander us and hurl verbal abuse in our directions.
These days, many people, particularly on social media platforms, engage in a “tit-for-tat” game. As vitriolic politics seep deeper and into more aspects of our everyday lives, the justification for spiteful antics has multiplied. More disturbing is that many self-professed Christians have adopted this “punch-back” mindset when they should know better (I’ll probably dedicate another piece just to this topic alone).
Third, Ramsden points out that while some Christians are called to be evangelists, all Christians are called to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples. We, as the church, need to dispel the idea that disciple-making is only for a “special group” of Christians.
Fourth, be prepared to jump into the game. As Ramsden states, “…the Christian is called to an engagement with, not a retreat from, the world.” He goes on to remind Christians that a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done for them. “…authors of books about apologetics should be regarded as personal trainers, to help us develop a spiritual fitness for the questions that will inevitably come our way.”
Okay, so we’ve done all of the above. Now what? How do we actually apply that knowledge into our daily lives? Ramsden gives us a few pointers for that, too:
One, don’t be afraid to jump in. Apologetics is, in a sense, a full-contact sport.
Two, ask questions. Asking questions forces people to think about their position. Plus, asking questions is a more gentle way of exposing contradictions in their philosophy.
Three, define the issue. “Frequently as Christians, we want to jump in with answers to questions without really thinking about the assumptions in people’s minds concerning the issue at hand.” Ramsden illustrates this point by briefly pointing out in Matthew 22, Jesus understands that the question of paying taxes was a trap and redefined the issue.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to not have all the answers. We really need to get into the mindset that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” or, “I’ll have to look that up. Can I get back to you later?” Only one person had all the answers and that person was Jesus himself.
We’re Called To Engage The World
Ultimately, preparation of our spirits and minds, as well as practice, are what we need to fulfill our calling to proclaim the Gospel, give reasons for our hope, and make disciples. What we cannot do is sit this out. As Ramsden expertly states in his piece, “…the Christian is called to an engagement with, not a retreat from, the world.”